2/4/2012 – Michigan 4, Miami 1 – 16-9-4, 10-7-4 CCHA
2/5/2012 – Michigan 3, Miami 0 – 17-9-4, 11-7-4 CCHA
Pull the string on a college hockey observer and you'll get a torrent of profanity about the latest refereeing injustices. Do it again and you'll get a statement about how it's a weird year. Do it a third time: more torrents of profanity. A fourth time and you get this: "there are no elite teams this year." Don't bother going any further. It's torrents all the way down.
It's just that… I don't know. I'm definitely not saying this, you know… but… would they be saying that if Jon Merrill hadn't been suspended for the first half of the year?
Consider Michigan's season. When Merrill came back from suspension Michigan was 11-8-3 and yielding 2.6 goals a game. Since, 1.25. They've gone 6-1-1 in that stretch against four opponents fighting for tourney bids with all but one win coming by multiple goals. Nine of Michigan's eleven non-wins in the first half were one-goal contests.
How many of those does Merrill—and the marginalization of Michigan's third pair—swing to the positive? How many goals per game is having him worth? The answer can be a lot less than 1.35 and still be enough to propel Michigan's season record into territory only Minnesota-Duluth is scraping this year. Past it, maybe. The idea I am creeping up to gingerly and fleeing in fear from after considering its audacious blasphemy is obvious.
What if Michigan is this year's elite team?
Look at it from a neutral observer's perspective: here's this team tied for second in RPI and PWR, third in KRACH. It's 10-1-2 in its last 13 games and midway through that stretch added a top-pairing defenseman from the WJC team. Their goalie has entered a new plane of existence in which it's reasonable to put up a .980 over a month. They are surging towards the top of what looks like college hockey's toughest conference. If not Michigan, then who?
Mentioning that point in November when it looked like the team was dead and buried and marveling at the huge distance from that point to this one is obligatory and discharged here. The shift has been abrupt and dizzying.
What changed? Merrill is obvious but Michigan was already on a 4-0-1 move when he re-entered the lineup. The formation of a thunderous top line helps a lot, as does Hunwick going from "still a guy you can win with," as I termed him in a post around the midseason mark, to a surefire Hobey finalist*. And then there's just… this feeling. Of competence and confidence.
Whatever it is, Michigan has rarely found themselves threatened since the halfway point. If it's still a little shocking that this Michigan team is rolling everyone not named Notre Dame, it's true, and the longer it goes on the more confident you can be in your delicate assertions that Michigan might be pretty good at hockey this year.
*[As in top ten, not necessarily top three. That's a possibility, though.]
The throbbing pestilence
The fetid sore on hockey that is Keith Sergott cannot be better summarized than by the meaningless penalty to Blake Coleman with one second left in Friday's game. After they'd let Miami run Hunwick twice without putting Miami on the penalty kill, a pissed-off Coleman plows Hunwick. Sergott does what Sergott does by Sending A Message and making this guy's penalty a major.
This infuriated me. One: the penalty was not a major. It was not dangerous at all, not much of a hit, and warranted two minutes. Two: twice earlier in the game Hunwick had gotten run harder and Sergott either ignored it or evened penalties up. Since the player did not get a DQ, the net result is to make it look like you're being strict without actually penalizing the behavior on the ice in any way whatsoever.
That's Sergott's MO. That's why he was on the ice when Conboy and Tropp assaulted Steve Kampfer, and his inability to keep tempers in check is indirectly responsible for the suspensions handed out at the end of Saturday's game. His incompetence is total, which shouldn't be surprising since he is Bull from "Night Court."
Yost Built has a good summary of this guy's track record:
You'll remember that Sergott was the official a few weeks back at Notre Dame, when he let the Irish run Hunwick at every opportunity and usually just evened things up on the rare occasion that he did call anything. He was also the official when Steve Kampfer was attacked by Andrew Conboy and Corey Tropp. He was also the official of the ND/WMU game when the wrong player got ejected. Even if you set the bar for your officials at "Don't endanger players with your incompetence", Sergott fails in a big way. He shouldn't be reffing BGSU/Alabama-Huntsville, let alone high-profile games.
His existence as a referee is on the same plane as the CCHA adopting "gongshow" as a title sponsor.
Antidote. Denard was at the Friday game:
Further highlights from Friday:
Bullets That Shawn Hunwick Perceives As Lackadaisical Watermelons
Hobey? Yost Built lays out the case for Hunwick:
Hunwick moved into 4th place in the history of the program with his ninth-career shutout. He also now ranks second nationally in wins, is fifth in save percentage, and ninth in goals-against. Hobey. Seriously.
Of the eight guys in front of him in GAA, four come from minor conferences (Union, Niagara, RIT, Quinnipiac), and he's played twice as many minutes as Knapp and CJ Motte. Only Douglas Carr from UML and Kent Patterson from Minnesota are from major conferences, have played around as many minutes, and have a better GAA. And Patterson is only .01 ahead.
The four guys ahead of him in save percentage play for Niagara, Union, RIT, and Robert Morris. And none of them are within 225 saves of him.
He is obviously the best candidate amongst goalies. Can he win against the usual parade of scoring forwards?
Baseball standings. Here you go:
|4||Notre Dame||11||8||3||36||22||1 2/3|
|Ohio State||10||9||5||36||24||2 2/3|
|9||Northern Michigan||7||9||6||30||22||3 2/3|
|11||Bowling Green||4||14||4||19||22||7 1/3|
The conference title race is still competitive, but Ferris State has a clear edge since they're in first place and have a BGSU series left. Michigan will either have to fly through the last three weeks or hope for Ferris to drop some points this weekend at Notre Dame.
The final week could be a barn-burner: WMU plays a home and home with Ferris as Michigan travels to BGSU. If the standings look like they do right now that could be a weekend where a split in FSU/WMU gives M the title.
The call out. Red Berenson is not a guy who expresses much emotion publicly, so a relatively gentle statement like this…
"We'll keep sending the information to the league but the league has to respond. I don't know that they've done a good job of it so far."
…says a lot about how frustrating it's been to watch the league ignore opponents making the Hunwick a target part of the gameplan without consequences. After Saturday, Red's opening statement was this:
"Don't ask me about the officiating."
So people figured out ways to ask him about the officiating without really asking him about the officiating. It was like watching JoePa interviewed at Media Day, when every question was not about retiring (nudge nudge wink wink). So Red said "we should not have to kill that many penalties in a game like that" when asked about the penalty kill and "it was the way the game was being handled" when asked about the emotions escalating at the end.
Legion of Boom! Top line nickname? No? Maybe? Yes? Needs more brutal hits, probably. Whatever.
Level up. When AJ Treais got a pass from Lee Moffie, held it… held it… held it(!) and then passed it back to Moffie at just the right moment for him to bang it into the net I was not surprised.
This was surprising. After a couple years of watching Treais be not Mike Comrie I'd resigned myself to the fact that he wasn't going to be the devilishly entertaining short guy that is my favorite hockey archetype*. But dang if he isn't basically all of Michigan's secondary scoring in the Legion of Boom era.
A lot of this has come from sniping. See his first goal Friday above. Yeah, Reichard could have done better there but Treais had about a square inch of real estate to make that relevant and nailed it. Then he zinged himself:
I saw a very small spot. I was just trying to get it to that spot, and the puck went in. I haven't done that since juniors. Usually my goals are back-door tap-ins.
This has not been true of late. High-variance shooting percentage aside, Treais has started walking dudes and generating chances. It seems like the light has gone on.
Moffatt and Brown are also contenders in this category.
*[Austin Czarnik's a good example. Western's captain this year is the best I've seen, though.]
You knew this was going to be in the post halfway through Saturday's game. I find it inexplicable that Lindsay Sparks ever gets scratched. He makes that line with Moffatt and Hyman so much more dangerous. Multiple times against Miami he set up excellent scoring chances by driving into the offensive zone and then pulling up to survey guys diving to the net or setting up in the slot; he also rang the post on a wrister.
Maybe he's not the greatest defensive player in the world but he's a chance generator. Against the flailing bottom sixes of the CCHA he's got to be a net positive.
Next up on "I can't believe this guy is a scratch": Mike Chiasson.
The Keith Sergott of power plays. A salute to the Miami PP, which sunk further into the depths after going 0/12 on the weekend. They dip to 13% on the year even without considering the shortie; Michigan's penalty kill is up to 16th.
Miami is now 8 of 94 on CCHA power plays.
Goal controversy. I will trade Blasi the goal they got double-reviewed Saturday for Fort Wayne, and I'll include Tayshaun Prince.
Vogelhuber. I'm little surprised "Vogelhuber" is not a rank in Vogon society.
I did mention that Michigan's bye-week fall was mostly illusory and a strong weekend would see them pop up. I didn't think it would be all the way to second, and it really isn't all the way to second: they're in a three-way tie with Mass-Lowell and UMD that sees each competitor take one comparison and lose one from the other. Michigan wins the tiebreaker by the hair on its chinny-chin-chin.
There's not a whole lot of complexity here. Michigan will win comparisons based on RPI against virtually everyone with two exceptions:
- #1 BU. Michigan probably has to have BU get at most a tie out of a weekend series with Northeastern to pass them before the playoffs give people a bunch of unplanned series not accounted for in the TUC stuff.
- #4 Duluth. M is going to have a hard time winning this comparison unless Duluth spits the bit down the stretch and they play very well. COP is basically Duluth's without very specific events unfolding and they have a ~1.5 game edge in TUC.
If M goes 3-1 in the next two weeks they're in great shape; 2-2 and they are probably going to drop to fourth or fifth. The margins here are very narrow, just like they are in the CCHA. Michigan is assured of nothing but has positioned itself well.
Random factoid: every game Michigan has played has been against a TUC (above .500 in RPI) save for their opening swing against Bentley, SLU, and Niagara. This will be an even more impressive statement in two weeks because both MSU and Northern are also TUCs.
Despite forbidding any questions on the matter, that Berenson spent much of his time speaking about officiating and taking shots at Blasi (after a dominating sweep, no less) says quite a lot.
Referees Brian Hill and Keith Sergott lost control of the game, Blasi lost control of his players, and Michigan was the team getting penalized.
For those keeping track at home, yes Keith Sergott is that Keith Sergott, the one who presided a particularly touchy and physical Michigan-Notre Dame series two weeks ago.
So, in honor of Berenson and in the spirit of reticence, I too ask that you not question me about the officiating.
So after the first 13:50 of the game, the RedHawks had had nearly eight full minutes of power play time. In that 7:57 span with Miami up a man, shots were 5-5 and goals were 1-0 in favor of the Wolverines. That is some penalty killing!
There is also a quality ref rant in that post.
New Lenox (IL) Lincoln-Way West OL Colin McGovern is one of the standouts among a loaded class of offensive linemen in the state of Illinois. The 6'6", 280-pound junior recently picked up a Michigan offer to go along with early offers from Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. McGovern, rated as a four-star tackle to 24/7, has the potential to play either guard or tackle at the collegiate level and displays some very impressive run-blocking ability in his junior film (above). I got the chance to talk to Colin over the weekend and here's the full transcript of the interview:
ACE: First of all, how is everything going with your recruitment, and who do you have offers from?
COLIN: It started off back in December, Northwestern was the first one to offer me. It was kind of slow [for a while]. After that, I was talking with Michigan a lot and it was just a lot of talking with schools, no offers. Then about two weeks ago Tennessee came in, Coach [Sam] Pittman, and he offered me, and from there it just picked up. That was two weeks ago, so within the last two weeks I picked up six more offers, and I got one today from Indiana—you probably haven't seen that yet because I haven't told anyone about it.
ACE: Of the schools that have been in contact with you so far, do you have any early favorites?
COLIN: I'm pretty much neutral on all the schools because I never really grew up a fan of a certain team. I just grew up watching all games. Going into the recruiting process I don't really have a favorite.
ACE: With Michigan, I know they just offered you. Who have you been in contact with the coaching staff and how did you learn about getting the offer?
COLIN: Coach Funk is the only coach that I've been talking with and I actually called him yesterday—he was the one that offered me.
ACE: What are your impressions of Michigan as a school and a program?
COLIN: Well I only caught one game this year and that was the Ohio State game. From what I saw it was a pretty great game—two great football teams going at it and Michigan came out on top. Just from after the game you saw, once they did beat Ohio State, you saw the celebration and all that kind of stuff; all the fans getting into it and all the tradition. Obviously they're the most winningest team in college football history, they have a great educational school—everything's great about Michigan.
ACE: How would you describe your game on the field? What are your main strengths and what are you trying to work on for your senior year and getting to the next level?
COLIN: For being so tall one of my strengths is being able to get and stay low through the whole block—I don't get too high. I need to work on maybe getting a little lower, finishing through the block, and maybe my explosiveness off the ball too.
ACE: The early returns on the offensive line class from the state of Illinois for 2013, there are some really good prospects coming out of there. Have you been in contact with any of the guys like Logan Tuley-Tillman, Ethan Pocic, Kyle Bosch, and Colin Goebel? Do you talk to those guys at all and is there any feeling among you guys of trying to go to the same school?
COLIN: I haven't really talked to them all that much. I have been doing Core 6—I did the Core 6 practice and showcase with Tillman, but I haven't really talked that much with him. Pocic I haven't really had a chance to talk to even though he was at the showcase. I'm really not even that acquainted with the guys, so I wouldn't really be able to say, with either of the two, whether we're out really for ourselves or trying to get together or whatever.
ACE: I was going to ask you about Core 6. What's it like being able to have all these high-caliber high school athletes all together in one place working out? How much does that help your development?
COLIN: Well, I've only been to one, like I said, and then the showcase. As of right now I don't think I'm going to be working with them just because I had prior commitments. I think I'm just going to keep on going with what I'm doing. When I did go to those two things, it was pretty cool having all those other, not only great football players, but recruits there too, because they're going through the same thing and you could relate to them. At the same time they helped me get better when you're practicing with them, too. It seems like a great thing.
ACE: So what are your plans in terms of training over the offseason? Do you have any plans for going to any camps or visiting any schools over the summer?
COLIN: I was planning on visiting a lot of places, I'm not exactly sure what the schedule for that is yet. In terms of workouts, I'm going to be working with [former Northwestern and NFL lineman] Matt Ulrich and Ron Potonic* and just doing my football team lifts during the week.
ACE: In terms of a timeline for your recruitment, do you know when you want to narrow things down and wrap it up?
COLIN: I've been thinking about that and I was planning on hopefully getting committed somewhere before next season starts, but if I don't have my school picked out I'm not going to rush such a big decision.
ACE: What are you looking for in a school when it comes down to decision time?
COLIN: The number one factor for me is the education. If a school doesn't have a good education that's going to be a major turnoff towards a school. It would be great to play in the NFL but honestly you always have to have that backup plan and I'm going to need a good degree. So, I'd say the educational standing of a school and then of course the football program, because if I'm going to go play football at a school I might as well be on a good football team. Those are pretty much it. If I had to pick a third, I'd say maybe playing time or conference, maybe, but they wouldn't be huge deciding factors.
ACE: Going away from football, what's one thing that you want people to know about you that goes outside of the football field?
COLIN: Actually, Allen Trieu from Scout.com just talked with my coach and he wrote an article about what my coach had to say about me. What he was saying is not only am I a hard worker on the field and off the field in the classroom and in the weight room, but he said the number one thing is that I've kept my head on straight and I've stayed humble throughout this whole process. I haven't let it go to my head.
*I believe this means he's training at Winning Edge Athletics in Chicago.
Barring a late-breaking commitment—say, Alex Kozan—these are your final Big Ten recruiting rankings for the class of 2012. After Ohio State's late charge under Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes finish atop the rankings; Michigan is a relatively close second and from there it's a precipitous drop to Notre Dame and the rest of the Big Ten. You can find the previous edition of the rankings here—changes are not listed because there were far too many.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg||24/7 Avg||Avg Avg^|
*ESPN doesn't rate JuCos, so they are counted as unranked recruits for the sake of consistency (trust me, it makes sense when you look at the spreadsheet).
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (aka the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
On to the full data, after the jump.
[ed: whoops. This was supposed to publish 12 hours ago.]
|WHAT||Michigan at MSU|
|WHERE||Breslin Center, East Lansing, MI|
|WHEN||1 PM Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||MSU –10 (Kenpom)|
Right: Izzo's permanent expression should Michigan win this game.
Pretty much the same team already covered in the post dedicated to the game at Crisler, with two major exceptions.
Exception one: Draymond Green's knee. Green and Izzo have been telling everyone only death will prevent him from going and he'll be essentially fine. Green's mom keeps popping up in these stories to say less optimistic things, though. The most recent:
“I think he’d play if he still had a crutch,” Babers said.
Green does still have some swelling, she said, and he’s still feeling the effects of the stomach flu that he picked up over the weekend. Babers said she wouldn’t be surprised if Green comes off the bench and plays less than usual Sunday.
While Green's health is important, he's not an electric athlete and is short for a PF, so Michigan's four-guard lineup has been effective against him in the recent past. He struggled to seven points in Crisler earlier this year. If he's limited, Michigan will see a lot more of Branden Dawson.
Dawson's an intimidating athlete who is a horse on the offensive boards and will likely take up a bunch of Green's slack on the other end of the floor if he's replacing him in the lineup. He is not a three point shooter, however, and lacks Green's point forward skills. He's also a freshman and may be vulnerable to defensive lapses against Michigan's complicated offense.
Exception two: Brandon Wood has been booted from the starting lineup in favor of senior walk-on Austin Thornton:
Senior Austin Thornton was told he'll start in Wood's place, with both players finding out about the lineup change halfway trough Friday's practice. … Wood's issues, as Izzo sees them, are mostly on the defensive end. When the 6-foot-2 veteran of four college basketball programs was hitting shots, those deficiencies were somewhat masked.
Michigan scorched MSU's interior defense to win by a point despite ugly outside shooting in the first matchup, so Izzo goes with gritty stereotype and coaches' favorite to staunch the bleeding.
Thornton doesn't provide much offensively aside from three-pointers but he is hitting 40 percent this year on admittedly infrequent attempts. His usage is miniscule; Izzo's plan may not hold up to reality if Green is not effective and he has to find shots.
Since losing to Michigan the first time out MSU has throttled Purdue and Minnesota at home and lost a horrendously ugly game at Illinois by a single point.
Conference four factors:
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||53.0 3||43.5 3||49|
|Turnover %:||19.4 8||18.9 8||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||38.8 1||29.1 3||32.5|
|FTA/FGA:||34.7 7||34.6 6||36.5|
Another notable number: opponents are hitting just 28 percent of their threes in conference play. Despite this, they shoot buckets of them (35%). Opponents don't shoot well from two, either—Michigan's 17 of 24 in the first game much have driven Izzo nuts.
Test Green. Obviously. Michigan should run him around the court as Novak gets a bunch of screens and see how he reacts. Actually they should do that anyway: Novak's inability to get shots off has been a major drag on offensive efficiency.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE: if Green is fine, go to page 21. If Green is not fine, go to page 25.
PAGE 21. Draymond Green is basically himself. This is bad since MSU has played very well this year and is at home. Unless Michigan gets hot from three it's hard to see them keeping up when they have to fight the usual road woes. Where do the points come from if Michigan is abdicating offensive boards, MSU isn't giving up the relentless parade of easy buckets they did in Ann Arbor, and the free throw line is a rumor?
PAGE 25: Draymond Green is severely limited. This still isn't great but removing Green from the equation puts a lot of pressure on Keith Appling to create all the shots. That's a dicey proposition with Appling 2 of 19 in his last two games and apparently incapable of playing 31 minutes a game without passing out from exhaustion. Travis Trice and Brandon Wood will just about have to split 40 minutes in that event to give Michigan State a second ballhandler. That could lead to additional easy twos for Michigan.
Novak would get to double hard on any post stuff since Dawson is not a shooter, but the downside would be Dawson clubbing Michigan on the boards even more than he is already expected. Defensive rebounding has gone poorly for Michigan the last two times they've played State and a Green injury just means even more time for a dynamic guy on the offensive glass.
Non-Green related items? Non-Green related items.
Hardaway versus Thornton needs to be a win. Hardaway has closed out lackadaisically for much of the year; if he's got a Thornton matchup he needs to close out hard, hard, hard. Thornton's shooting 39% from two and is not much of an assist threat. If he gets an open shot just within the line, fine.
Meanwhile on the other end of the floor, Hardaway needs to be a productive user of the energy he won't be spending on defense. Michigan has not figured out how to get Hardaway effective shots much this year but the above three point defense and Hardaway's cold shooting makes it seem clear what he should do: go inside.
Hope they're not shooting well from outside. Michigan is resigned to giving up a fair number of open threes as they try to fight their lack of size.
Get handsy and take care of the ball. Michigan beat Indiana largely because turnovers were 14-6. With MSU projected to have a huge offensive rebounding advantage, it gets really hard to win if Michigan isn't winning turnovers by a significant amount. Turnovers cannot be rebounded and often lead to good transition shots on the other end.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
MSU by ten.
MIAMI IS HOCKEYBEAR TIME
[If this seems like excessive Hockeybear, It's a scheduling quirk: he blows up OSU, Miami, and MSU.]
|WHAT||Miami at Michigan|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena|
|WHEN||7:35 PM Friday/Saturday|
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TV||Friday: FSD Plus
Saturday: CBS Sports
Record. 15-11-2, 11-9-2 CCHA. A preseason CCHA favorite, Miami has been a disappointment. Like Michigan they endured an awful stretch in the first half of the season. They were 2-6 out of the gate, splitting against Bemidji State and Colgate before being swept by Ferris State and Lake Superior.
While they have slowly recovered it's taking them longer to get back to the level expected of them than it has Michigan, and their final three conference series are doozies: Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. Throw in a no-win situation against Alabama-Huntsville (UAH is so bad wins against them actually hurt your RPI and are therefore excluded from calculations) and Miami is in a battle for its tournament life. They're currently 11th; any stumbles down the stretch will threaten their bid.
The good news for the Redhawks is that they are hot now, 6-2 in their last eight, all against the fierce pack of contenders in the CCHA.
As noted on Monday, this is a matchup of the top two teams in conference goal differential. Michigan's climbed to +13 in two fewer games, did it largely without Merrill, and has an easier closing stretch, so you would give them a slight advantage on paper, where all games should be played.
Previous meetings. The Redhawks had a slight advantage in a home series during Michigan's awful stretch, winning 2-1 on Friday before a 3-3 tie Saturday. Miami outshot Michigan 29-21 on Friday and 41-28 Saturday. Merrill, obviously, was not available.
Reilly Smith lights the lamp
Dangermen. There actually is one. This unusual for a very good and very defensively-minded CCHA. He is Dallas draftee Reilly Smith, who is averaging just over a PPG. His 19 goals are fourth nationally. As you might imagine, he's a sniper. The third goal in this LSSU-Miami game from a couple weeks ago is Smith popping the water bottle from just outside the crease:
Letting him shoot is a bad idea.
Austin Czarnik (yes that Czarnik) is his primary setup man with 7-16-23. Miami has a bit of depth behind those two—another three guys have eight goals and a fourth has six—but is just 29th nationally with 2.86 goals per game. Michigan is ninth (yes, yes, SLU and all that).
This would be a game to sic the checking line on Smith and company, but Michigan doesn't really have one.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. The Reichard/Knapp platoon continues into both goalies' senior years. Reichard has a slight advantage in starts and Knapp a large advantage in save percentage (.928 to .901) and GAA.
Knapp started both games against Western; the two split series against LSSU and Northern. It's getting towards put up or shut up time for the Redhawks, so I expect Knapp on Friday and, if things go well in net, Saturday.
As far as their defense goes, they don't get much offense out of them but senior Chris Wideman will plunge down from time to time. Their opener against NMU was reminiscent of the goal Moffie manufactured in Michigan's OT GLI win over MSU:
He's got 1-14-15 on the year and given the state of the Miami power play it's safe to assume a larger fraction of those goals are even strength that you might expect.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4||3.9|
|PP Ag / G||5.1||4.1|
Miami's special teams have been poor. They end up shorthanded more frequently than their opponents and are struggling to score on the power play. They're even worse than Michigan (46th versus 43rd). In the CCHA they are converting at an under 10% rate. That's probably the most inexplicable stat of the season.
Their PK is pretty good (12th) and significantly better than Michigan's (26th). Merrill, etc.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Even those shots out. While Merrill should help in this regard, Michigan is still giving up a ton of shots even after his return to the lineup. Maybe they're not all spectacular but asking Hunwick to keep up his blistering pace (.975 in the past four games!) is a bit much.
Match Pateryn with Smith. Pateryn is Michigan's best defenseman when the puck is on the other guys' sticks; his size, reach, and reliability should help cut down on opportunities for Smith to loose his deadly shot.
Go ahead and goon it up. Miami is undisciplined (last in the league in penalties taken) and their power play is awful. A few tweaks may get you an extra power play or two and they're not going to hurt you if the random number generator goes against you.
Hunwick: keep playing out of your mind. It would be nice, right? .975 will do just fine.
The Big Picture
CCHA baseball standings again:
|Ohio State||10||7||5||1||36||22||1 1/3|
|Notre Dame||10||7||3||0||33||20||1 1/3|
|Lake Superior||9||9||4||4||35||22||1 2/3|
|8||Michigan State||8||9||3||2||29||20||2 2/3|
This is a huge series because all series are huge in the tightly-packed CCHA. Michigan wants to finish fourth or better to guarantee themselves a home series and can put themselves in a good spot by getting anything better than a split this weekend. A split leaves them where they are.
As far as the Pairwise goes, I believe a 6-2 record down the stretch will see Michigan occupying a one seed when the conference playoffs roll around*. You'd hope BGSU would be a slam dunk, leaving them with the task of sweeping one of their other three series and splitting the other two to get there. Miami is the toughest opponent left; getting the sweep this weekend would be a huge step towards both a potential left-field CCHA title and that one seed. Easier said than done.
*[They would have to defend that by reaching the Joe and going at least 1-1 there. They'd be in a good spot, though.]
Hunwick’s no longer just a good story; he’s legitimately among the best netminders Michigan’s ever had – boasting the best save percentage and goals-against average in program history at this point. And as the Wolverines find themselves in an interesting psychological position – seventh place in the standings but just five points out of first – Hunwick finds himself with the opportunity to do more than inspire walk-ons everywhere, he’s got the chance to put this team on his back as they attempt to end a national title drought that’s fast approaching a decade and a half.
I'm baaaaack. Didn't miss a thing, right? Oh, yeah, THAT. Signing day has come and gone, and while Michigan is still in on a couple of prospects, today's roundup will focus on the endless fluff pieces on Michigan commits, the flood of new offers for 2013 recruits, and the search for the real Fred Jackson.
Hoke By First-Round KO
Bob Wojnowski is one of the best on the Michigan beat, but I couldn't help but snicker at the headline of his post-NSD column:
Backyard recruiting brawl is back on between Michigan, Michigan State
After Michigan pulled in seven of Rivals's top ten in-state prospects, leaving Sparty with academic question mark Aaron Burbridge, I imagine that brawl going a little like this:
Yes, I know Wojo didn't write the headline. In fact, I'm hoping this a wonderfully back-handed way of saying that it's back to "Big Two, Little (Rest of B1G)" status [emphasis mine]:
There's nothing more emotional than Michigan-Michigan State and Michigan-Ohio State games. But now all three programs are fighting on familiar ground, while other Big Ten heavyweights have issues.
Michigan State's familiar ground: Lurking under the table for the in-state scraps while Ohio State poaches their top commits. Things just feel so wonderfully right now, don't they? They should: Michigan finished with a class that ranked #6 on Rivals, #4 on Scout, #7 on ESPN, and #8 on 24/7, and while Ohio State did come out on top in the conference recruiting rankings, anyone who expected different when the Buckeyes hired Urban Meyer was kidding themselves. Also, they oversigned, so the moral high-ground remains ours. Never forget how important that is to maintaining our conference-best arrogance.
Sam Webb took a look at five recruits—Joe Bolden, Kyle Kalis, Ondre Pipkins, A.J. Williams, and Chris Wormley—who could have an immediate impact on the field in 2012. Most of the article is stuff you've seen before, but Scout's Dave Berk had some especially high praise for Bolden:
"I thought he was the best linebacker in the state of Ohio for two years now," said Scout.com Ohio analyst Dave Berk. "He has a high football IQ. A lot of times we say that about guys that don't have athletic ability, but Joe has the athletic ability to go with it. He has got great physical size and he can go sideline to sideline. He can be an outside backer or he can be a middle backer. He is a playmaker. … I think Ohio State and Notre Dame whiffed on that one."
Okay, I really just wanted a quote that knocked OSU and ND. I doubt you mind.
Somebody Save Fred Jackson from the Pirates, Please
This cannot be the real Fred Jackson. There is clearly an imposter masquerading as the King of Hyperbole ($):
Late addition Dennis Norfleet also comes in listed as a running back, but Jackson noted that at 5-7, 170, he's not as suited to every-down back duty in this offense.
"I'm not too sure about his overall ability as a back," Jackson said. "He's more of a utility kind of guy. He's not a guy who is going to go in and play like a Drake, or a [Thomas] Rawls, or guys like that, with that size. He's more of a utility guy that can help you in a lot of ways.
Jackson wasn't quick to jump on the notion of Norfleet as the next Vincent Smith, either, given what Smith has already proven.
"I know you know what I think about Vincent Smith," Jackson assured. "That's saying a lot. Vincent Smith, to me, is pound-for-pound, probably the toughest guy on our football team. I don't know if you can say a guy is going to be like that. I'd hope he could eventually get that way."
Until Jackson describes Norfleet as "Darren Sproles with the wings of an angel and the feet of a young Michael Jackson," I'm going to assume he's been captured by Somali pirates, whom he's currently convincing are the greatest pirates since the days of Bluebeard.
Imposter Fred Jackson did manage to sign seven of the eight players he targeted while recruiting the state of Michigan for the first time this year (all held MSU offers, by the way) en route to being named one of 24/7's top 50 recruiters for this year's class, joining Greg Mattison on the list. At least Imposter Fred Jackson can still recruit.
The Wolverine released an endless series of profiles on class of 2012 commits—all behind paywalls, of course, because knowing Ben Braden played hockey is premium info, y'all—and perhaps the most interesting is the profile of Kyle Kalis, who's got a sensitive side when he's not bashing defenders into the ground ($):
"Kyle is not a kid you can stereotype. He has a myriad of friends, all types of kids," he said. "As an artist, he's tremendous. Some of his work, if you saw it, you'd be really impressed. With the guitar, he didn't take lessons … he taught himself. I believed he played it a little for Coach [Greg] Mattison when he came for a visit.
"Kyle is a young man with intangibles. So often we just want to measure these kids on their grades and test scores, but there is so much more to our personalities and who we are than that, and Kyle epitomizes what you want out of a well-rounded individual."
If the painting at right is any indication, Kalis also likes the Rolling Stones. No word on whether he's more of a Let It Bleed/Beggars Banquet guy or an Exile on Main St. fan. In actual football-related news, Kalis is unsure whether he'll be a guard or a tackle for the Wolverines—according to him, Hoke is giving Kalis the chance to choose between right tackle and right guard once he gets onto campus and has a few practices under his belt. If Michigan doesn't land Jordan Diamond (announcing at 8pm EST tonight), the need for depth at tackle may be too great for him to land at guard, at least for this year.
Quickly: For the last time, A.J. Williams is a tight end, though he'll fill the role of the 'Y' position—blocking TE—while Devin Funchess will play the 'U,' a TE/WR/FB hybrid ($); Erik Magnuson considers himself a good luck charm after visiting for the Notre Dame and Ohio State games ($); ESPN video of Funchess, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Terry Richardson, and James Ross, all former members of the youth football Westside Cubs who have now been reunited as Wolverines.
This is probably the last time I'll have a section called "2013 Notes," since now we're officially in the class of 2013 recruiting cycle. The initial ESPN U 100 ($) was released on signing day and it's littered with Michigan targets. Tom has a full breakdown over on ESPN Insider, but Shane Morris was indeed awarded five-star status, Dymonte Thomas got four stars, and the Wolverines are recruiting eight five-stars—TE Adam Breneman, CB Kendall Fuller, LB Michael Hutchings, S Leon McQuay, OL Ethan Pocic, OL Jake Raulerson (who just committed to Texas), OL Laremy Tunsil, and DT Greg Webb—and 18 four-stars from the list.
Michigan sent out a ton of offers this past week, so I'll summarize in bullet form:
- Cass Tech CB Jourdan Lewis, who got his "dream offer" from the Wolverines ($). I'm a big fan of Lewis after seeing him three times this past year, and it's quite possible he could be the next junior to commit.
- That is, if Lewis isn't beaten to the punch by Columbus (OH) Marion-Franklin WR Jaron Dukes, who named Michigan as his top school after receiving his offer ($).
- Columbus Bishop Hartley's Jacob Matuska is the third TE to be offered by Michigan ($), joining Adam Breneman and Jake Butt.
- Indianapolis North Central OL Darius Latham, 24/7 #67 overall prospect, was offered by Michigan and Tennessee recently ($).
- Lincoln Way-West (IL) OL Colin McGovern becomes another standout Illinois lineman to receive an offer, and Allen Trieu has a free article that's well worth a read.
- Cincinnati Moeller LB Shane Jones picked up offers from Michigan and Indiana ($), joining Cincinnati among his early offers.
- Avon (IN) DE Elijah Daniel, another top-100 prospect to 24/7, grabbed a Wolverine offer ($). He's already visited Ann Arbor twice and is considering taking a visit on the 18th.
- Two more players added M offers: Columbus (OH) Walnut Ridge WR Rob Wheelwright and Dayton (OH) Trotwood-Madison DE Michael McCray, according to 24/7 ($).
In other news, quickly: Pickerington (OH) North TE Jake Butt named Michigan, Stanford, Northwestern, Maryland, and Tennessee as his early top five ($); Logan Tuley-Tillman will visit Ann Arbor this weekend ($); Allen Trieu takes a look at some of the emerging juniors and sophomores, many of whom are being recruited by the Wolverines.